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AFC’s approach to talks with Ramotar “strategic” – Kissoon

Freddie Kissoon

The Alliance For Change’s (AFC) decision to address specific concerns with President Donald Ramotar rather than the general issue of improving governance to avoid gridlock appeared to have been more strategic.

That’s the view of Political Scientist, Freddie Kissoon who had endorsed the AFC for the 2011 general and regional elections.

The one-time activist for the Working Peoples Alliance (AFC) during the Peoples National Congress (PNC)-led administration said the AFC’s approach to talks with the Guyanese leader last Thursday was better compared to discussions with a delegation from A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) held one day earlier.

APNU, which now includes the WPA and PNC-Reform in a parliamentary coalition, had focused its talks on finding an improved system of governance through a tri-partisan consultative system to resolve thorny issues in and out of the National Assembly. APNU Chairman, David Granger has said that his discussions did not focus on itemized concerns such as the Public Procurement and Integrity Commissions and the Ombudsman.

Kissoon, however, said that the AFC’s decision to discuss a range of key issues such as the status of those commissions, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), allocation of radio licenses, National Communications Network (NCN), Berbice Bridge tolls, among others, dealt with burning issues affecting ordinary Guyanese.

The former University of Guyana lecturer contended that the APNU’s approach to avoid specific issues gave the Ramotar administration an escape-route to procrastinate under the guise of examining the constitutionality, legal and regulatory stipulations. “When you adumbrate a holistic picture to the government, you’re giving them scope to play around with time and agenda because you’re discussing the broad issue of governance,” he told Demerara Waves Online News (www.demwaves.com).

Kissoon argued that pinning down the government on specific items forced government to arrive at a decision and “more concrete results.”

Reporting on the outcome of the talks, the FC on Saturday said Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon would narrow down precisely where the party and government differ on the need for cabinet to maintain its no-objection role in the award of contracts. Government has said that it wanted the Procurement Act to be amended before the commission could be constituted.

The AFC, in response to a request by the President, said it would write him on NCN’s pro-government stance and the need to run the state radio and TV along the lines of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). “The President seemed to believe that the bias on the part of some of the private media was justification for the bias displayed, in Government’s favour, by NCN. Our team argued the case that NCN should be run on lines like the BBC. He requested that AFC write to them on what AFC wants, which we will do,” said the AFC.

According to the AFC, the President avoided discussion on whether or not former President Jagdeo acted in bad faith in handing out numerous radio licenses. Instead, he blamed the Opposition Leader for delaying in naming his nominee to the Broadcast Authority which had pushed back the commencement of the Broadcasting Act. “The AFC advocated a clean-slate starting  with the revocation of the grants made in 2011, a reversion of these to the NFMU; and, with all applying  to a new and the Broadcasting Authority granting,” according to that party. The Jagdeo-issued licenses were done under the colonial Post and Telegraph Act.

While President Ramotar wants an AFC financial nominee to the NIS Board, he has refused to remove Dr. Luncheon as Chairman of the Board along with all other board members. The HPS is to circulate government’s discussion paper on NIS to the AFC.

Reacting to the GUY$5 billion budgetary cut for Guyana Power and Light (GPL), the AFC said it argued that the power company would have additional monies because the price of fuel would be eight percent less than the anticipated costs due to a fall in world oil prices. “The AFC made it clear that the GPL Board be sacked and more monies would be saved almost instantaneously. The reduction of line losses and improving efficiency at GPL are areas the AFC continues to be concerned about.”

The AFC said its delegation told the President that that disagreed that the budget cut for the Amaila Falls hydropower project would send a wrong signal to the Inter American Development Bank (IDB). Rather, “the AFC team assured him that the AFC will support this once the IDB due diligence approves the project.”

With regards to the AFC’s proposal that the Berbice Bridge toll be reduced, the President reportedly told that party’s delegation that it should submit its proposal to the Board of Directors of the Berbice Bridge Company.

Against the background that the President reiterated his refusal to sign two opposition piloted and approved bills into law, the AFC said its team told the Guyanese leader that it would not support proposed amendments to the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism Act if he again refuses to approve the two laws in another six months. “We assured him that we would and that if he chose not to assent, the AFC would not give support to the Anti-Money Laundering Bill. We indicated that he should assent and let his litigious AG (Attorney General) take it to Court for that body to pronounce on unconstitutionality of the Act.”

The AFC said it shared its undisclosed thoughts on whether the position of Chancellor of the Judiciary should be advertised as is being requested by Opposition Leader Granger. Ramotar reportedly said he was opposed to the position being advertised.

Meeting with the President, his Governance Advisor Gail Teixeira and HPS Luncheon were the AFC Leader, Khemraj Ramjattan, General Secretary David Patterson and Treasurer Dominic Gaskin.

“The AFC made it clear that it did not want this new development to become a talk-shop with an excess of political gaffe, with nothing fruitfully being realized and no concrete follow-up action being taken. As a result of this approach, the AFC team heard the President’s perspective on a number of matters; and in return the President heard the AFC’s perspective on same,” stated the seven-seat political party.

The AFC said the President’s invitation for a meeting was accepted after he had indicated that he wanted to have a direct communication line with the leaders of political parties to express his views on the major political and economic matters of concern, and also to hear very directly the views of the political parties on these issues.